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Winner winner, pick your dinner

James Pascoe explores the competition behind food delivery services.

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[caption id="attachment_121790" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image: Anna Kawolska
Image: Anna Kawolska

Four months into the New Year, public, and student, appetite for online takeaway services seems as insatiable as ever. Danish market-leader Just Eat - the food delivery middle-man service that has provided thousands of takeaway outlets with an online and mobile platform - debuted on the UK stock market this month, with share prices of 260p making it the biggest UK technology float in eight years, allaying fears of a new tech flotation bubble. Just Eat has continued to swallow up smaller rivals this quarter, with mergers in Mexico and Spain, coupled with further organic growth in key markets such as Britain, pushing it past the £1.5 billion valuation mark.

Despite an increasingly saturated market, it is clear that Just Eat remains the dinnertime favourite for the majority of Britons. Just last month, company executives released figures revealing that 2014 was their best year on record in the UK market. For starters, the company revealed that its active customer-base mushroomed to 8.1 million Britons by March 2015 - a rise of 37% from the same time last year. The company devoured a further 62% increase in revenue last year to take its total UK earnings to £157 million. And if these statistics weren't impressive enough, for dessert, Just Eat revealed that if you stacked all the burgers they sold last year on top of each other, the pile would be 2,000 times as tall as London's tallest building, the Shard.

Having glanced at the statistics, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the outlook at Just Eat was careering ever-closer to a monopoly of the British takeaway market within the next few years. But the recent redoubling of efforts from Just Eat's main rivals shows that their goose is far from being cooked just yet. Hungry House, owners of the second-biggest slice of the UK market share, has just seen investors roll out a new £200 million cash injection going towards improving its technology interface. Analysts claim that Hungry House is still on course to IPO in the summer of 2015, as it gears up to mount a serious challenge to Just Eat's crown. Just Eat executives would be foolish to discount the threat posed by American market-leader GrubHub, as it prepares to consolidate its position in the British market with mooted expansion outside of London set to take place later this year.

Elsewhere, the emergence of Deliveroo has spiced up the menu in the biggest British cities. Deliveroo's focus on premium quality food that gives customers an alternative to fast-food and unimaginative takeaways, with partners including established restaurant chains such as Nando's, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pho - the Vietnamese noodle chain - and dim-sum providers Ping Pong has seen it establish a strong market foothold in London and Manchester. Whether York residents will soon be able to enjoy its delights remains to be seen, but the growing competition will hopefully keep Just Eat on their toes, ensuring better quality and service for customers in the coming months.

Other challengers have had to turn to more outlandish unique selling points to attract more market share. Dutch giants allow their British users to pay for orders from over 7,000 restaurants with the Bitcoin currency, whilst London's new-kid-on-the-block EatFirst prides itself on its 15-minute average delivery time. In a market shrouded in increasing uncertainty, one thing seems clear: the competition for takeaway supremacy is starting to get interesting in 2015. Best get ordering.

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